Business book club read - Peers Inc by Robin Chase
Business book club read – Peers Inc by Robin Chase

Can capitalism save the world? That’s the big and surprising question addressed by Robin Chase in Peers Inc.*

It was less than 20 years ago that I first watched Rollerball. A 70’s movie than imagined a world owned and run by corporations rather than countries. It was a dystopian fantasy then but it’s one that seems to be creeping into our 21st-century world. Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft all have control of our lives and it’s something we’ve given into willingly. We even take on specific teams, iPhone v Android, PC v Mac.

In Peers Inc Robin Chase offers a counterbalance to this future. She imagines a better world, where capitalism can be used as a force for good.

Robin was the founder of Zipcar, a car-sharing service that allows people to rent a car by the hour rather than own one. I saw her speak at Inspirefest earlier this year and was so impressed I picked up her book.

Excess capacity

The foundation of Zipcar, AirBnB, Uber, Google Maps even WhatsApp is what Robin calls ‘excess capacity’, making full use of the resources we already have.

Airbnb lets us rent our spare rooms, transforming that excess capacity into income. Zipcar means we don’t need to buy a car that sits in the drive all the time, we can share one with others. Google maps let us use the unused computing power on our phones and the satellite system to find our way around.

This is a concept I can buy into, it’s green and I can see why Robin thinks it could help address climate change as a result.

Benefits of excess capacity

Convenience

I often look back to the days before the internet. I felt crippled back then, even the simplest tasks could take ages. I spent countless hours on hold on the phone, making visits to the post office, getting lost travelling. Having the internet at my fingertips is more than convenience it is an essential part of my lifestyle.

Excess capacity makes my life even easier. I can now book a room in any city in the world, not just a soulless hotel room but a place embedded in the culture. I can hire a cab, I can make a call for free on WhatsApp and most importantly for me I can find my way around. All whilst sitting in a cafe waiting for a friend.

Price

Earlier this year I rented an apartment in East Village NYC. Have you seen the price of hotel rooms there? I had my own front door, a fridge full of beer, wifi, the cleaners didn’t come in to disrupt my lie ins and best of all I didn’t have to chat to people at the front desk. It was wonderful to step outside the door and feel like a New Yorker. Yes, I could have stayed in a hotel but this was cheaper and infinitely more comfortable.

If you own a car you have to look after the parking, the maintenance, insurance, tax, fuel. All that for something you probably spend as little time in as possible. With Zipcar or it’s alternatives you can own a car for an hour and pay by the hour. Imagine how much hassle and cost that saves.

Disadvantages of Peers Inc.

Getting banned

When you enter into a relationship with an excess capacity company it’s a two-way relationship. Yes, you are the customer but your Uber drivers and Airbnb hosts rate you the same way you rate them.

Robin gives an example in the book of a client they banned from the service after not reporting an issue with the car she’d rented (an issue she had caused).

If you get banned or get bad reviews you have very little recourse, you are no longer a part of the organisation.

It’s worse for service providers. Have an off day driving your Uber and you could be banned from providing transport in the future. If we all give up our jobs and become self-employed excess capacity providers, we are at the mercy of the big companies. We have no recourse if we are struck off the register, no rights as an employee.

Corporations can fail

If there is one thing we learned from the financial crisis it’s that no one is too big to fail. We may commit our time and resources to hosting on Airbnb but what happens if they change their model or go out of business? We’re left without a platform to market ourselves on.

A manifesto for change

Excess capacity is the basis of the book and there are many case studies that made me feel warm and fluffy. Stories of people who wouldn’t be noticed or be able to excel without the tools that it allows.

There was the teenage Minecraft fanatic Ethan who built a games company just through online interaction. On the Internet no one knows you are 12 years old or cares.

There was Gretchen, the frustrated artist turned lawyer who found a market for her art on Etsy.

There were Uber drivers, Airbnb hosts, all of whom were enjoying a better quality of life because of Peers Inc.

But does all this good news really mean capitalism can change? Can we encourage corporations to abandon the quest for wealth, even a little bit to make the world a better place?

Can corporations be a force for good?

This is where the vision collapses, at least a bit. Although Robin does address how some large companies are adding environmental and social goals to financial ones in their formal requirements, I wonder can this takeoff. Will corporations see the value in collaboration? In exploiting excess capacity?

Can every business engage with enough peers, employees and contractors to make the world a better place? I’d love to think yes but it seems a bit far fetched.

Is it worth the read?

There are some wonderful moments in this book. I didn’t know that reCAPTCHA, those annoying photos of numbers and words you have to re-type to register for some web pages, was also repurposed as a way of turning scanned newspaper and book images into machine readable text.

I hadn’t thought about how we got access to all those satellites to help us navigate around using SatNav (Because governments gave us free access).

I didn’t know that if I take a language course for free with Duolingo I’d be helping translate content for other companies.

Final thoughts

Although Peers Inc is food for thought I wonder it’s really a solution to climate change? To unemployment? I believe it does nothing to change our two tier society. Those ‘with’ keep their big homes and cars and those ‘without’ service them. Can capitalism save the world? I’m not convinced.

It’s a manifesto that still hands power to the Inc’s. It doesn’t smash the power of corporations but instead makes us all participants. Instead of breaking free from the RollerBall model it could just push us one step closer.

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Business book club read - Peers Inc by Robin Chase
Business book club read – Peers Inc by Robin Chase

 

how-to-win-friends-and-influence-people
From the 30’s To The Digital Age? – How To Win Friends And Influence People

A book written in the 30’s about how to get your own way… that’s bound to be evil isn’t it?

A slightly dogeared copy of Dale Carnegie’s ‘How To Win Friends And Influence People’ * has been knocking around my house for a few years, we’d purchased it as an oddity and although I’d thought of picking it up a few times I’d always gone for something a bit more modern.

What finally made me open it? One day it seemed everyone was talking about it. I’d written a post about how it was better to be nice online and someone pointed me towards the book, Ted Rubin mentioned it in a podcast I listened to and it popped up in some articles I read.

Perhaps it’s not an evil book after all?

Running your own business in the 21st century is hard, we are told that we should be no nonsense, put our foot down, say it like it is. Good advice? Perhaps, you need a certain amount of resilience to survive but are we forgetting to be nice.

Essentially that’s what this book is about. It’s about how to deal with people and get the best from them. It’s not about manipulation as I imagined, it’s just about treating other human beings in a way that enhances their lives rather than causing them annoyance, shame or upset.

So yes we need to be strong and resilient but sometimes the best way to be those things is to be decent to people.

Key takeaways

Be nice

Nice is such an insipid word but being nice could well be the key to success. When you are nice, friendly, helpful, go out of your way to add value to your relationships, people will reciprocate. Have you ever met someone with a permanent smile on their face? You can’t help but feel warm towards them.

Make people feel important

According to the author people need to feel important, their ego needs to know that they have a place in your world. Something as simple as remembering someone’s name, and using it can make all the difference to your relationship with them.

Hug your haters

There will be those who take exception to you in life and some of these people can get in the way of you progression. Instead of increasing the friction go on a charm offensive, make that person feel important and you will begin to modify their impression of you.

Walk in their shoes

When you find yourself in conflict with someone try looking at the situation from their point of view. Identify what it is that is triggering the conflict and tell them you understand. When they see that you understand your point of view they will be more receptive towards yours.

Ask others for advice

It’s very arrogant of us to walk around believing we know everything. It’s always a good idea to widen your point of view and find out what others think. Not only will they respect you for listening to their ideas but they could become powerful allies in the future if you act on their advice.


Most of this stuff will sound obvious to you, many of us have been practicing these techniques with out being aware that we were. Knowing about them, being told they work will remind us to do it more.

I was surprised at this book. It is a book about being nice but what’s strange is that although it was written in the 30s, it’s also a book that sits neatly into the internet world.

If you have managed social media for your business or someone else, you will know that sometimes it’s hard to deal with negativity, whether it’s a complaint, a snide comment or just someone having a bad day. A good community manager delights in being nice, polite in the face of attacks and this ‘How to win friends…’ is a good primer for this.

Whether it’s a sales meeting, a disagreement with a friend or dealing with 100’s of consumers online, following Mr Carnegie’s formula will mean you will be happier and so will those you are dealing with.

One note, if you do read this book I recommend getting a recent, updated edition. Although it’s quaint to see examples of letters rather than emails some of the content is outdated, particularly if you are female. You have to remember that this is a book written in the 30s, a time when it was almost unimaginable that a wife wouldn’t be a home maker who’s interests, apparently, stretched to wanting a fur coat.

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How To Win Friends And Influence People
From the 30’s To The Digital Age?
askgaryvee book review
Book Club review – #ASKGARYVEE by Gary Vaynerchuk

Somehow I’d forgotten I liked Gary Vaynerchuk.

The Irish version of Donald Trump is a man called Bill Cullen. For those of you who aren’t familiar with him, he’s a self-made businessman who played the Trump character in the Irish version of ‘The Apprentice’.

There’s a lot to admire in Bill. He succeeded against all odds, he has ambition and drive. When his businesses failed he picked himself up and started again. But I’m not a Bill Cullen fan, I attended a talk he gave at my local enterprise office whilst he was still riding the Apprentice wave. It became clear to me that he was arrogant and intolerant. He couldn’t see that not everyone could be like him, that we all had different strengths and weaknesses. I admired his success but disliked his attitude.

What’s this got to do with Gary Vaynerchuk?

I’d always liked Gary Vee. I reviewed his last two books on this blog, I even reviewed his appearance at the Dublin Web Summit but at some stage I’d put him in the same basket as Bill Cullen. I’d assumed that as both were loud, brash, self-assured businessmen that they shared the negative qualities that I’d seen in Mr Cullen. But it turns out I was wrong.

Gary Vaynerchuk at Web Summit
Gary Vaynerchuk at Web Summit

When I asked Snapchat and Twitter what my next book club should be people overwhelmingly recommended #ASKGARYVEE* and I have to thank them for that.

#ASKGARYVEE is a collection of questions and answers that have been part of the YouTube video show of the same name. People submit questions they want Gary to answer and he does so on the show.

I found myself enjoying the read. Gary isn’t scared to talk about his weaknesses, he knows he’s a bit of an egotist but he manages to temper this with an understanding that not everyone can be like him. Sometimes his answers are short, even slightly disparaging but all of them open a window into the world of a highly driven and unusual character.

I particularly like the sections that dealt with his struggle with education. It’s so encouraging for young people to see someone who was an academic failure, who doesn’t enjoy reading and whose greatest fear is reading out loud in public be successful.

I usually read business books to learn but this one isn’t just about learning. I find it fascinating to understand what makes someone like Gary Vee tick. How does he keep his energy going? How does he manage the work-life balance? What isn’t he good at? All the answers are in the pages.

It’s also highly quotable. If you grab a marker there are whole sections you could highlight and repeat to people to inspire them or to prove your argument.

Some of my favourite Q&A’s included in the book are:

“How do I create interesting content for a boring product or a stale industry?” See the original answer here.
“People who write essays as their Instagram captions – what the hell are they thinking? We’re there to look at pics, not read endless shit” See his YouTube answer here.

That second one had me laughing out loud, particularly as I’ve written about captioning in detail for AgoraPulse recently. Luckily Gary Vee seemed to fall on my side.

One thing that stands out for me is that Gary Vee wants to be liked, or at least he sees being liked as giving him a business advantage. He’s written about customer service before, he’s written about what it takes to make a customer happy but I’d forgotten. Simple things like referring to business people as ‘she’ as much as ‘he’ got me on side very early on.

The Verdict

Not all of us can be Gary Vee but not all of us would want to either. What you’ll get from this book isn’t a blueprint of how to make money or of how to be Gary Vee but some real inspiration and some affirmation. And if you are like me you’ll find a new warmth for a man who you may have thought was inaccessible.

*Affiliate link – I get a small cut of sales if you buy after clicking this link

 

 

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Book Club review - #ASKGARYVEE by Gary Vaynerchuk
Book Club review – #ASKGARYVEE by Gary Vaynerchuk
binmans guide to marketing book review
April Book Club – The Binman’s Guide To Marketing – Oisin Browne

I remember a few years ago The City Bin Co. exploded into my consciousness. I’m not sure why. Was it a radio ad? TV? something else? All I know is that I knew that City Bins had red wheelie bins rather than the standard, green or grey. There marketing was working, if I’d been in an area they served I’d have wanted a red bin and I’d think of them every time I saw one.

Oisin Browne, the author of  ‘The Binman’s Guide To Marketing’* started his career in refuse working as a binman in his brother’s business, The City Bin Company, now he works as part of the sales, marketing, and innovation team there. In this book, he shares his top marketing ideas.

It’s the second in a planned series of books by Oisin, the first was ‘The Binman’s Guide To Selling’ and ‘The Binman’s Guide To Customer Service’ is in the works.

As someone who is self-taught in marketing, I’m always on the look out for more information and a better understanding of the marketing process. Digital marketing and traditional marketing go hand in hand yet so many who work on the digital side are like me and have no formal education in the area. It was with the aim of plugging my knowledge gap that I picked up a copy of this book.

The main body of the binman’s guide consists of 100 marketing ideas. Each with an outline of the idea, how to implement it, tips and a digital nugget.

Most of these come from Oisin himself but he has also invited guest authors to contribute. These tips give anyone new to marketing a good overview of the different techniques you can use.

oisin browne quote
Wise words from Oisin Browne – Author of ‘The Binman’s Guide To Marketing’

The 100 ideas are complimented at the end by expert interviews with marketing professionals including those from small businesses and large corporations.

For me the main value of this book is the marketing ideas. If you are going to read it I recommend doing so with a pen and paper next to you, not all tips will fit all businesses but there will be something in there for every business owner. Choose the ones that will work for you, make a note and go away and work on them.

I would have liked a bit more, I tend to read business books for two reasons. 1. To get inspiration and 2. To learn. The binman’s guide sat somewhere between these two. Although I got lots of ideas I’d have loved a website I could go to and download extras and templates so I could easily put the ideas into action. I’d also liked to have known more about Oisin, he hints at his involvement with The City Bin Co but it’s not until the end that I discovered it was his brother’s company.

All in all, this is a handy guide and one you should have on your bookshelf for reference. There are ideas there that you will go back to and ideas you’ll want to put into action straight away.

 

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*Affiliate link – I get a small cut of the sale if you buy using this link.

The Binman's Guide To Marketing
A Marketing Cheat Sheet For Business – Read The Binman’s Guide To Marketing
what your customer wants
Are you asking the right questions?

Do you really know what your customer wants? Have you asked them? Did you ask them the right questions? This month’s book club pick helps you find out.

I got a series of emails from a company recently. They had a product that they wanted to sell me and they were offering me a demo. This product wasn’t relevant to my business so I ignored the first email. They had me in some sort of automation system so I kept getting emails, each one becoming a little more insistent.

After ignoring all the emails I eventually got one asking if I was the right person in the company to talk to. I responded to this one telling them that they were barking up the wrong tree and, at last, the emails stopped.

Perhaps setting up this system was time and cost effective for them but it’s annoying for me. How many people got these emails and marked them as spam? How many went through the demo process just to make them go away?

The Problem

As small businesses, it is crucial that we are targeting the right people both with our sales and our inbound marketing.

In fact with inbound marketing, we are wasting even more time and resources if we aren’t creating the right content for our audience. Each blog post we write, each video we shoot, each image we create takes valuable time. Making sure that it is properly targeted ensures that this isn’t time wasted.

This is why I’m a big fan of the ‘Customer Persona’. A fantasy customer that we build content for. A customer whose needs and problems we understand. Someone who we know needs what we offer.

I covered customer personas in a recent podcast episode but I knew there was more to creating a persona than guessing who they were.

The Book

I decided that to get to know my customers and readers better I’d need to survey them. Enter Ryan Levesque and his book ‘Ask’*. I can’t remember which podcast I was listening to that recommended this book but it coincided with my decision to run a survey and I decided I’d read it before creating it. I’m glad I did.

The first half of this book is about Ryan, how he got where he is now, what motivated him and how he developed his system. Although he says you could skip this section it’s an enjoyable read and it’s convincing. He really wanted to create something that would work.

The second section is the system itself. It’s a workbook taking you step by step through the process and how to implement it. There’s nothing too techy here. If you can use simple survey software like SurveyMonkey and know your way around the basics of Excel you can follow the first steps. You may need a bit of help for the next stage, creating landing pages and videos, but there are tools out there that can make this easier too.

The key to finding out what your customers really want is asking ‘What is your biggest challenge’ and this question is at the beginning of and the heart of the Ask system.

The Verdict

I can see exactly how I can implement this book in my business. I know that I will be able to create better personas and this means I’ll be producing better content as a result.

I don’t need the full system. Although I can see how it will work for marketers the bit I really need is the ‘Deep dive survey’. The cost of the book is worth it for that alone.

The only thing I didn’t like about this book was the introduction. If it hadn’t been recommended I’d have been put off by the ‘Get rich quick’ language. It seems that every business book has to persuade you with the promise of dollars or euros to read on. It’s a shame really because the rest of the book is well grounded.

If you are serious about creating better customer personas this is the book for you. If you are committed to taking your online business further the whole book will be a valuable workbook.

*Affiliate link – I get a small cut of sales if you buy after clicking this link

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ryan levesque ask
How To Find Out Exactly What Your Customers Need
digital marekting books
Digital Marketing Books you need to read this Christmas for a successful new year

Christmas is coming, it’s time for small business owners (in the most part) to give themselves a break. To kick off their shoes and relax. The problem, of course, is that it’s hard to stop. During the year our schedules are so hectic we don’t really know what to do when we have time on our hands.

For me, it’s reading. I read fanatically over Christmas. You’ll find me next to the Christmas tree, mince pie in one hand, book in the other. If you fill your holiday’s with reading too here are my five top digital marketing book recommendations. Let me know if you have any others to add to the list.

The Content Code: Six essential strategies to ignite your content, your marketing, and your business by Mark Schaefer

the content code
Mark Schaefer’s Content Code – Don’t put off reading it

I’m not sure how I first discovered Mark’s blog. I do know that I subscribed as soon as I read the first article. It’s not often that a blog grabs my attention that quickly. {Grow} is a great resource that will get you thinking, really thinking about how you approach digital marketing. One post from the blog inspired an episode of my vlog series.

I was reading the blog for about a year before I bought the book, it was a friends recommendation that finally got me clicking the buy button.

In The Content Code Mark takes us through six strategies that should help us get our content seen* and shared by more people. Some of the ideas reinforce my own beliefs. For example, igniting content isn’t all about SEO. Others made me question my own perspective and rethink my strategy. He mixes stories and expert interviews into the narrative to help reinforce his ideas.

I’d recommend this book to anyone starting their content marketing journey, whether you are a YouTuber a Blogger or even an Instagrammer the tactics described in this blog could help you build a larger, more responsive audience.

Content Marketing Works: 8 Steps to Transform Your Business by Arnie Kuenn

content marketing works
Content marketing works inspires you to be a better marketer.

I always know I’m reading a good book when I need to stop every few minutes to make notes and add items to my todo list.

I read Content Marketing Works whilst on holiday in Paris*. You may have spotted me standing outside various record and comic shops, in queue’s for tourist attractions, sitting on the Metro, Kindle in hand, totally absorbed.There’s nothing particularly new in here but it lays out the steps to a better content marketing plan clearly and in enough detail to make it easy to take action.

This is the book that inspired me to write my own book. Watch out 2016. It’s also a book that has started to transform the businesses I run and contains strategies that I’m able to pass on to clients.

If you read this keep a notebook close by.

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini

influence the psychology of persuasion
Warning, may make you evil!

I picked up this book with caution. If I read it would I become evil? Would I gain magic powers that would make me able to influence anyone about anything?

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion* takes you through the tactics that salespeople use to get us to buy, get us to buy more and keep us coming back. The author tells us stories about being manipulated himself, once by a boy scout! He approaches the subject matter with disdain. He explains each tactic and then tells us not to use them. The author tells us that his goal is to help us avoid falling for canny sales people ourselves.

Part of me thinks his requests not to adapt the techniques he outlines is a tactic in itself. Are the sales techniques he outlines so powerful that we’ll instantly become a rich, evil genius if we emply them?

I can’t speak for the author’s true intention, but I think your choice of whether you use them or not is about your own ethics. How far will you go for a sale? how comfortable are you with manipulation? Can this be used for a good cause?

It’s definitely thought provoking. Read with caution.

The Linkedin Code: by Melonie Dodaro

the linkedin code
Will change the way you use LinkedIn

One of my favourite jobs has been travelling the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland working with groups of tourism businesses about LinkedIn as I go. LinkedIn became an obsession of mine before I left and I found Melonie’s book a fantastic resource.

Melonie’s Top Dog Social blog is another that I’ve been reading for a while. It’s full of useful information and she really knows her stuff when it comes to LinkedIn. It made sense to buy her book when I wanted to upskill and I’m so glad I did*. It shows you how you can utilise LinkedIn for sales. Each chapter is a lesson with actionable tips followed by real life case studies from those who are already employing her techniques.

If you’re wondering what to do with your LinkedIn profile and how you can get it working for you I’d highly recommend picking up this book.

365 Social Media Tips by Lorna Sixsmith & Amanda Webb

365 social media tips
Master social media one day at a time.

This isn’t a book I’ve read, it’s one I’ve co-written with Lorna Sixsmith, my partner in my sister business We Teach Social.

If you want to improve your social media and digital marketing in 2016 this book could be for you. There’s a fresh, short tip every day that you can implement. We cover Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest & Blogging but there are a few general tips in there too.

This is the second edition and we’ve almost a month’s worth of new and updated tips.

Here’s wishing you a wonderful holiday break. Roll on 2016!

*Amazon affiliate links (I get a small commission if you buy from Amazon)

 

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The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk - Book Review

The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk - Book Review

As soon as I picked up ‘The Thank You Economy’ I was hooked. It’s not brain science, just common sense thinking but as I turned each page I found my self nodding and agreeing with every word. I hadn’t been a Gary Vaynerchuk fan before but I was now.

At the heart of the book is the belief that doing business well online is about the customer, about offering a good customer experience by being personal and attentive. Bringing back the best retail practices that our parents and grandparents were used to.

He takes this premise and hits us over the head with it. The book is littered with examples of businesses big and small that are leading the way in exceptional customer experience both online and offline.

6 quotes and my notes from the book

“Being small is an advantage, because an individual can really shape a brand with his or her own style and personality.”

The good news is that as small businesses we have the advantage. We can’t help but be personal as we are at the coal face. We are the people who have to attract the customer, talk to them, make them feel valued and get them to come back. We know our customers by name and we chat to them online and off. Forging strong customer experiences and keeping them should be easy for us.

“Consumers have more direct, daily contact with other consumers than has ever been possible in the history of the planet. More contact means more sharing of information, gossiping, exchanging, engaging in-short, more word of mouth.”

For me this is all social media really is. When you think about it Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Google+ are just tools that expand our audience and our customers audience. Now if customers are happy with our product or service they aren’t just telling people in the pub, they are reaching out to people all around the world.

“It just makes sense that the better you know your consumers, the better you can tailor your marketing to them, and the more likely they are to buy from you.”

You know what? It’s hassle tailoring experiences, it takes time and energy but if you really want to be successful you need to stop thinking that one size fits all. At the very least you should know your customer or potential customers name and use it. The more you can make a customer feel valued, the more you make their experience special the more they will keep coming back.

“What’s remarkable about the little things is that the positive impact they have on a person’s performance or a customer usually far outweighs the effort or cost it takes to implement them.”

In the book Gary gives the example of the Joie De Vivre hotel chain. Staff members are encouraged to create delightful moments for the hotel’s guests. For example, they might research a special gift for a birthday or anniversary. There’s a lovely reference to a gift basket created for a very special mum that made me shed a tear or two.

“The person who says to you on Twitter, “I bleeping hate you!” is an awesome customer to have. If you can give alienated customers what they want, they will come back to you stronger than ever. Every time.”

One of the biggest fears companies have when they go online is the potential for negative feedback. Indeed when you read above about the reach of a positive recommendation you probably started to wonder about the reach of a negative one. The good news is that if you offer top notch customer care you can and will be forgiven. There’s a fab example in the book of a restauranteur who continues to bring his critics for free meals until they are satisfied. Of course some will take advantage of this but the positive buzz far outweighs this.

“Negativity launched online out of spite will be easily spotted as such if you keep your own tone polite and your message clear and consistent. Don’t bother to get into a debate even if you’re right. it’s not worth the effort, and again, you won’t win.”

And yes – don’t get into a public debate, even if you think you have won you probably got a whole lot of unwanted attention along the way.

This book is really worth a read, it won’t take you long and I’d be surprised if you don’t feel inspired once you’ve read it. You can buy it here (Amazon affiliate link).

It seems odd to be reviewing this book now as Gary’s new book ‘Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World’ has just been published. I’ll be reading that over Christmas and I might even review it at some stage too. You can get your hands on it here (affiliate link).

8 Twitter Take Aways From Dan Zarrella’s Science Of Marketing – Book Review

8 Twitter Take Aways From Dan Zarrella’s Science Of Marketing – Book Review

I’ve always found Dan Zarrella’s graphs, stats and blog posts interesting so when I saw that he’d just released a new book ‘The Science Of Marketing’ I bought it for my Kindle immediately.  It’s a great read and I find myself highlighting massive sections of it as I go.

This week I thought I’d share the 8 top Twitter tips I picked up from it. You’ll notice I have my skeptical hat on for some of it but in general it’s great advice.

 

1. Contra Competitive Timing

The data on the best time to post to get click throughs on Twitter shows that it is very often after the working day is finished or at the weekends. Dan calls this contra competitive timing.

“I follow thousands of accounts on Twitter. My Twitter stream is very active during the business day Monday through Friday. On the weekends, it moves much slower and what content does come through is often about sports and other non-work-related topics. The few times something interesting about marketing does show up on a Saturday or Sunday, it gets more of my attention because there are fewer things fighting for it.”

I am a day time, week day tweeter, maybe because I’m business to business, however it is worth experimenting with tweeting at different times, particularly if you are sharing your own content to see if you get a better result with less competition. Try tweeting at weekends or late in the evening.

2. Tweet Your Own Links Later In The Day

According to the research:

“Tweets posted later in the day – afternoon Eastern time – tended to have higher CTRs [click through rates]than tweets posted early in the morning”

Again it’s worth trying. Dan puts this behaviour down to the working day, people are more likely to procrastinate or take their foot off the pedal later in the day meaning they are more likely to look and interact with links on Twitter.

3. Put Links To Your Own Content Closer To The Beginning Of a Tweet

Dan’s data shows that tweets with links posted towards the beginning of the tweet get a higher click through rate:

“After I posted these data several people have told me that they’ve experimented with the format like ‘new post: http://linktopost.com title of the post’ and it worked for them.”

Why is this? Even Dan isn’t sure.  Could it be the novelty of seeing a tweet constructed another way or do we psychologically click a link when we don’t have to do much reading beforehand?

4. Share Your Content Often

I was on the #blogchatie Twitter chat recently and I was surprised to hear that many of the contributors only posted a link to their newest blog post once. I tweet mine at least twice a day until the next one comes out! I understand that it can be overkill if all you see the same link constantly appearing from the same account but it’s important to remember that Twitter a fast moving stream, because of this many of your followers won’t see your post if you share it just once.

“Share your content – and don’t be afraid to share it a few times – and find content from other sources that will also interest your audience and share those links”

It’s not enough just to share your own content of course, you must share other relevant links as well but you don’t have to worry so much about the CTR on those.

5. Be Original

“If you want me to share your content, you need to say something new, something I (and my followers) haven’t heard – or read before”

This is something we have all encountered on social media, a huge media event happens and businesses all try and jump on the bandwagon. Newsjacking and Real Time Marketing can be hugely effective but it is always important to contribute something new to the conversation. In doing so you become more attractive to followers and will look like an authority. For example I try and do this by looking at events from the perspective of small and medium sized businesses as this is my niche.

6. Avoid being self referential

This is an unusual one. On Facebook posts tend to perform better when you refer to your own experiences and yourself. Words like me & I do well there. On Twitter it’s the opposite. The Data proves that you are less likely to get retweets when you refer to yourself.

“If you’re on Twitter to communicate with friends you know in real life, feel free to talk about yourself all day long, but if you’re there for marketing and business reasons, stop talking about yourself.”

Rather controversially the data also shows that the highest followed accounts on Twitter rarely engage in conversation. If you are a regular reader of my blog you will know I’m a big believer in the power of conversation in social media. The problem with the data as far as I can see is that it is an analysis of the most followed accounts on Twitter. For smaller businesses and people just starting out it is almost impossible to get followers without conversing. My Facebook followers seem to agree.

7. Ask For Retweets

“Calls to action work in all forms of marketing, and social media is no different. If you want more retweets, ask for them”

This is another one that I’m uncomfortable with. I’ve seen this data a lot over the last few years so it does seem to be true that asking for a RT will get you more RT’s. However from a personal branding point of view I would rarely ask for someone to share my content. To me it always seems a little like begging. However, it does work so if you feel comfortable enough with doing it you should see results.

8. Post lots of links

“Accounts that posted 60 to 80 percent links tended to get the most retweets.”

Dan’s analysis concludes that posting lots of links (as opposed to tweets without links) will result in more retweets. Could this be because a link adds more value than 140 characters alone?
Even Dan himself says you should take the data with a pinch of salt, experiment with it and see if it works for you. I’ve been playing with putting my links closer to the start of my tweets this week and might try a bit of contra competitive timing.

I’d highly recommend reading the rest of The Science Of Marketing as it’s jam packed with tips like these covering multiple networks, blogging and promoting e-books and webinars. You can buy it here in hardcover or Kindle version. (affiliate link)


Video Tips & Book Review - How To Shoot Video That Doesn't Suck

How To Shoot Video That Doesn't Suck - Review

When I was in school I always wanted to work in Television, there was something enchanting about that flickering screen in the corner of the room that I wanted to be part of.  I studied media studies in secondary school, in sixth form and finally went on to study Television and video production in college.  After a few years working on films and TV series I decided it wasn’t for me but my experience wasn’t wasted, I now produce videos at least once a week and help my clients create videos for themselves.  Knowing this you might think that this choice of book was a strange one but it can be very different trying to shoot video with a flipcam on a zero budget to working with a professional crew.

How To Shoot Video That Doesn’t Suck by film maker Steve Stockman is a step by step guide on creating your own videos, whether they are for use online, marketing you business or just for recording family events.  It’s easy to follow and if you work through it and experiment with all the tasks it sets, you will definitely be creating better videos in the end.  It starts with easy stuff and works it’s way up to full on video production so whatever your level of experience there is something here for you to read. Here’s some of the key tips.

Would your best friend willingly watch your video?

One of the first issues that the book addresses is whether people, even your friends, will want to watch your video and it’s a good point.  I’ve lost count of the number of times that someone has sat me down in front a computer and pressed play on their YouTube video.  You know it’s a bad video when even they can’t bare to watch it for longer than 30 seconds.  If people are going to invest time watching your video you owe it to them keep them interested, or as Steve puts it:

“When you release a video, you owe it to your audience to give them a good time.  To change their world.  To open their eyes.  To make them feel.  If you do, the fact that you had no money won’t matter.  And if you don’t all the money in the world won’t make any difference at all” (Kindle location 1928)

I was relieved to read that it wasn’t just me that looked at the length of web videos before clicking play, anything over 3 minutes means I’d be unlikely to watch and it seems I’m not alone.  If we can be persuaded to watch a video most of us make the decision if we are going to continue viewing after just a few seconds.  For this reason, when we are creating our own videos, we really need to capture the imagination of our audience straight away and hold it for the duration of the video. That is exactly what this book teaches us to do.

Tell a story

Whatever the subject matter of the video you are making tell a story, that doesn’t have to be a big love story or drama but find a way of putting shots together to better tell the narrative.  As Steve puts in in the book:

“Stripped down to it’s essentials, a story has four elements: A hero, a beginning, a middle, and an end.  The beginning of the story introduces us to the hero and what situation he’s in.  the middle tells what happens to the hero next.  The end is how it turns out” (Kindle location 667)

So the key steps are, decide who your hero is.  Is it your customer, the bride, the product?  What is going to happen to that hero? Are they going to have a good experience, get married, blend an iPhone? The best and most memorable videos always follow this form, this morning I was watching this video of David Beckham and it too conforms to that structure. The hero is David Beckham, he’s going to kick the ball into the bin, he succeeds and is happy (see below).

Deciding what your video is about and what story it tells will make it more compelling straight away.  There’s some great examples on how to plan your story in the book. Putting a plan like this in place before you shoot will really help you when you go to make the video.

Keep your shots short

This is a mistake I see made all the time with online video.  There are some vloggers that are compelling enough that when they sit in front of a camera and talk you are engaged right to the end but these are rare. Gary Vaynerchuk is a great example (see below).  In the most part a static shot will loose the audiences attention pretty quickly so we need to cut.

“Cutting makes us pay attention.  Each cut to a new shot forces our brains to figure out what we’re looking at and what it means.  We’re more engaged in what we’re watching because we have to do a little work to understand it.  We’re more actively taking in information, participating in what video has to offer” (Kindle location 1656)

From time to time on my blog I conduct Skype interviews that are limited to a single split screen shot meaning that unless the content is hugely compelling no one is going to stick it out to the end.  Shooting a video face to face and adding screen shots, close ups, interviewer reaction shots will keep the viewers attention and allow you to cut out anything that isn’t moving the story forward.

In conclusion

There is a huge amount that budding videographers can learn from this book.  If you want to make videos for your business or even personally this is a quick and easy read full of practical tasks to help you improve.  Even those with more experience like myself can pick up some tips.  I know the way I think about and construct my videos is going to change as a result of it.

I read it on a Kindle and this isn’t really the ideal.  Reading the Kindle version on a tablet computer or a laptop would be more beneficial as you will be able to directly click the links to examples that Steve shares.  I’d also suggest setting aside some time to follow the practical tutorials before you start, you will get far more benefit if you are able to shoot video as you read.  Of course you can go back after reading and complete these tutorials but there is nothing like completing them as part of the reading experience.

If I’ve persuaded you click here to buy the Kindle version (amazon.com affiliate link) or here to buy the one made of paper (amazon.co.uk affiliate link).

If you want to know more about how Spiderworking.com can help you create a video for your business get in touch.

Google+ For Business by Chris Brogan

That title may seem a tad bold but it’s true.  Google+ For Business is a fantastic book on social media with examples drawn from Google+.  Sometimes we get too carried away with the tools and forget that social networks essentially all work the same way.  Some networks are better suited for particular audiences or target markets but how we approach them should be pretty much the same.

Having said all that since I’ve read this book I’ve been thinking of new ways of using G+, I’ve been more active, more creative and I’m beginning to love the place.  Chris wrote this book back in the early days of the network so he doesn’t delve too far into business pages.  From a personal and social point of view it’s much easier to use profiles than pages but that doesn’t exclude you from doing business there.  You can meet people as easily as you do on Twitter and you can build relationships with prospective clients the same way you might over time at networking meetings. So like most social networks Google+ works because it’s about building relationships, sharing useful and relevent information, letting your personality in and being real.

Back to the book.  It’s an easy read, it’s the first business book I’ve read on my Kindle and this was the perfect format for it.  I could pick it up whilst on a tram or during lunch.  It’s packed with case studies and what becomes clear is that people are approaching this relatively new network with fresh eyes.  They are finding new ways to do things, new content to share. I love the story of Jaqueline Carly, a fitness instructor who posts photos of herself pre and post workout everyday.  It’s this sort of simple but effective marketing that keeps Google+ interesting.  He also interviews some of those social media superheros including Scott Monty from Ford and Darren Rowse from ProBlogger.  He looks at how Michael Dell (from Dell) uses the network, he looks at the different ways people are approaching it and creates some scenarios of his own that small businesses would be wise to look at.

Then there is the bit that is really about Google+, although he doesn’t delve too deeply into the technical stuff he does share tips on how to make your profile more effective and how to manage circles.  Although Google+ has seen a redesign since this was written the tips are just as relevant, it’s a great beginners guide but also useful as a refresher if you’ve been there for a while.

Should you give Google+ a try?  Of course! Should you read this book?  Absolutely!

Buy the paperback on Amazon here. Or the Kindle version here.